All in

by Michael J. Klassen

Are you “all in”?

Centuries ago, kings converted to Christianity on behalf of their kingdom. Constantine (272-337AD), the Roman emperor, is the most well-known example, whose singular decision to become a Christian resulted in the “conversion” of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. Regardless of Constantine’s motivation, many people made sincere commitments to Christ as a result of his Edict of Milan in 313AD.

Oftentimes, when kingdoms “converted” to Christianity, their subjects were baptized en masse. One by one, clergy submerged tens, even hundreds, of people into the waters of baptism. The baptismal candidates understood that immersing themselves in the water meant immersing themselves in the faith.

But one particular group of people added a twist to their baptismal experience. Soldiers, as they were lowered backward into the waters, foisted their right arms in the air to avoid being completely submerged.

They were 85% “in” rather than 100%, or “all in”.

Their reason? Knowing that completely immersing themselves in the water—which they rightfully equated with immersing themselves in Christ—meant they could no longer kill their enemies on the battlefield (or at home), they chose to give him 85 percent. Their right arms wielded their swords.

This reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the hidden treasure and the pearl.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:44–46 (NIV)

When Jesus called people to follow him, he wanted them “all in” 100 percent. Not 90 percent or 10 percent. Both subjects in his parables sold everything they had to win the prize. Everything.

All of us wrestle with the other 15 percent or whatever amount is true for us. And the contents of that 15 percent can vary. For some, it may include unforgiveness. To another it can involve an area of sexual brokenness or trust in God. We all have our reasons for wanting to hold back in our relationship with God.

But what is the cost of holding back?

In the same parable, Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a treasure and a pearl of great price. All too often we hang on to a piece of hell when heaven lies within our reach. We opt for oppression, addiction, fear, mistrust—darkness—instead of freedom, light, and God’s love.

Believe me, I’m talking to myself as I write this. When Jesus called us to follow him, he called us to trade all our shame, our addictions, our brokenness, our sin—in exchange for life. Real life. And Jesus.

Sounds like a losing proposition on God’s part. But that’s yet another example of God’s great love for us.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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3 responses to “All in

  1. Georgie-ann

    old nature vs. new nature

    false identity vs. true identity

    empty and co-opted vs. filled and regenerated

    old wineskin vs. new wineskin

    We are told that we have a choice, but unless we learn to “see”/(understand clearly) the actual dynamics of that choice, we can be kind of like “guessing” on a pencil-in-the-dot answer sheet, when test time is running out and we think that there is no extra penalty for wrong answers, and we’re just hoping to add a few more by chance “right” ones to our score. Well, good luck with that,…it’s certainly hit-and-miss, and kind of like playing “blind man’s bluff,” — a game of tag, where a blindfold is deliberately placed over the eyes of the one who is “it,” and that blinded person has to try and catch someone else to be “it” — a game I never liked very much, even just watching it.

    After “the Fall,” ALL men and women, boys and girls, have been born into the first set of conditions in the above list: old nature, false identity, empty and co-opted, old wineskin. Sounds kind of yucky. But barring the existence of some terrible conditions, we’ve also usually been blessed with some inspired and inspiring moments, where we are touched by “goodness,” impressed by natural beauty and the grandeur of creation, thrilled with our own personal God-given abilities and talents, and possibly received an introduction to actual “God concepts” via religion or some sort of spiritual teaching, etc.

    Is it any wonder that we might be a little bit confused? Satan will surely be trying to keep our spiritual “blindfold” in place, and if we’ve grown very accustomed to, and comfortable in, and “identified with,” our “natural” ways, we can become very willing accomplices with satan in this endeavor.

    We love “goodness” when it’s our mother being good to us, or our father demonstrating care and concern. And good parents will love “being good” to their own children, but do not such parents also look forward to the day when the insight will be subsequently “birthed” in their offspring to become themselves willing vessels of goodness and giving/(giving back) to others? How deep is the sadness of one who willingly and generously “gives into” a situation of themselves, but receives no appreciation in return? Sometimes we call it “maturity,” which is fine if everything goes right and maturity “happens.”

    But even a not very prolonged look at our society, should be enough to reveal that a huge percentage of mankind does not “mature” in a very wholesome fashion these days,…and, yes, it’s a pity,…but what’s going wrong? A closer look will reveal endemic tendencies to selfishness, self-centeredness, narcissism, and vices galore, which make poor little Pinocchio’s ride to the disasterous “fun-land” look pale by comparison. How low can we go? Does any sane person really want to know?

    This “old nature” is a losing proposition, so the fact that it is a “false identity” should begin to register as “good news” to the careful and concerned observer. Our “way of escape” is definitely to and through God. (“There must be some way outta here!!” screams the wretched soul caught in satan’s vice-like grip.)

    But the “old nature” is truly unable to “be” good, unless it is for temporary manipulative purposes. So, we DO need the spiritual rebirth and renewal/(regeneration “in Christ”) promised, as we lay down the old and false identity, in favor of putting on the new and true nature of who we were created to be. The two natures do not work together well — they can never be “in synch.”

    Matthew 9:17 “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

    A “quality decision” to lay down/ “crucify the (disobedient) flesh (the old nature)” with Christ crucified (this is repentence), in Baptism, is a good pre-requisite to asking for the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit, and the gift/birth of “new life (spiritual)” within us.

    John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

    God is Good, and so is the “rebirth.”

  2. Georgie-ann

    TY, Michael!,…”To God Be the Glory!”


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